ASTORIA, Ore. -- The Double-crested Cormorants paint a black canvas over East Sand Island near the mouth of the Columbia River.
The birds love it there. There are plenty of young salmon and steelhead to eat as they swim by on their way to the ocean. Unfortunately for the birds, many of the fish they eat are protected by federal law.
Despite hazing and harassment from the Army Corps of Engineers, little has changed over the last several years.
“What we have found through research is that the birds just continue to come back to East Sand Island, nest there and nest successfully,” said Joyce Casey, the Branch Chief for Environmental Resources at the Army Corps of Engineers
She said the National Marine Fisheries Service, charged with protecting the fish, ordered the Corps to bring down the population of the cormorants. The Corps decided the best solution is killing as many as $16,000 birds over the next four years.
“The Corps has a mission to manage for all of the uses of the river," Casey said. "And part of that is a stewardship mission. That involves managing the complex interactions that occur in the river and balancing the uses between all the different needs."
The agency will hold a series of public meetings to take input during the month of July.
Portland Audubon Society Executive Director Bob Salinger will likely be first in line.
“It’s just a slaughter of historic and horrific proportions,” Sallinger said. “It’s outrageous. The Army Corps is now managing wildlife with a shotgun."
Upcoming meetings include:
- July 10 from 2:30 - 5:30 p.m. at the Matt Dishman Community Center, 77 NE Knott Street, Portland
- July 24th from 3 - 6 p.m. at the Best Western Lincoln Inn, 555 Hamburg Ave, Astoria
The Corps plans to announce their final decision on what it will do to the birds near the end of the year.